The House Committee’s H.R. 2 draft Farm Bill is due to face a full-floor vote Friday. On Wednesday, the House Committee voted on over 100 amendments lawmakers proposed to be included into the draft. There is still quite a bit of controversy between the House and Senate regarding the draft bill, with little sign of any ease-up. With no support from Democrats, Republicans must pass the bill within their own party, a feat that could prove to be difficult.
Disagreements over the controversial SNAP program overhaul remain critical in the chances of passing the measure, as stricter work requirements to qualify have some members up in arms; but other issues are surfacing as the draft hits the floor, which could cause complications when it’s time to pass the draft through the House. Among these top disagreements are crop insurance and the sugar policy. Amendments were proposed regarding these, and other topics. For a full list of proposals, read this list of amendments.
Certain organizations, such as the CIRB, wish to leave crop insurance alone, others are looking for reform. According to The Progressive Farmer,”The Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau late Wednesday sent out a letter signed by 418 organizations asking Congress to do no harm to crop insurance.” The CIRB petition “asks Members of Congress to oppose harmful amendments to crop insurance, including those that would reduce participation in crop insurance, make insurance more expensive for farmers during a time of economic downturn in agriculture, or harm private-sector delivery.” Meanwhile, The Heritage Foundation believes that a reduction in crop insurance is more beneficial. “The CBO found that reducing premium subsidies by 15 percentage points to 47 percent would reduce the number of insured acres (300 million) by just one-half of 1 percent, to 298.5 million acres. It also explained that 1.5 percent of insured acres would have lower coverage levels. The CBO estimated that this reform would save $8.1 billion over 10 years.”
Sugar has been a controversial issue of its own the past, and lawmakers are looking to make changes that have failed to pass in previous years. Bloomberg.com reports on a proposed amendment to the sugar policy on H.R.2. “Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said Monday she has the votes to pass an amendment that would eliminate production limits that keep sugar prices higher for growers. Foxx’s amendment also would repeal a sugar-to-ethanol program that let the government sell surplus sweetener to biofuels producers, and it would give the administration greater flexibility to lower tariffs on imported sugar. It wouldn’t require sugar processors to reimburse the government for costs incurred under a federal loan program, a key difference between the amendment and an earlier stand-alone bill sponsored by Foxx.”
Other organizations believe the policy that has been set in previous bills has been effective and are looking to avoid any reform. “Opposing the move, the latest in a long line of attempted changes to sugar programs, are sugar producers and lawmakers from Great Plains and Deep South states that produce almost all beet and cane sugar in the U.S. They say the change would amount to unilateral disarmament in the global sugar economy, allowing heavily subsidized foreign producers to dump products on the U.S. market and destroy the domestic industry. They also contend that claims of inflated costs for consumers are exaggerated,” according to Bloomberg.
With the challenge of passing a bill through the House on Friday afternoon, be on the lookout for the sugar program, crop insurance, and SNAP to be at the forefront of discussion.
Markie Hageman is a senior, majoring in agribusiness, at Fort Hays State University. She is actively involved in her state Cattlemen’s Association, Young Farmers chapter, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Follow her series exploring various parts of the next Farm Bill.